The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), on Wednesday, reacted to the backlash that has trailed his description of the returned $311 million Abacha loot as ‘Abacha assets’, saying he deliberately used the word.
According to the minister, Nigerians should rather be more concerned about the proper utilisation of the returned looted money rather than dwelling on the use of words.
Malami had come under intense criticism on Twitter between Monday and Tuesday for what commentators described as the minister’s improper labelling of the proceeds of the looting perpetrated by the then maximum ruler.
However, Malami, in a statement by his Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Dr Umar Gwandu, said he deliberately referred to the funds as ‘Abacha assets’ because it had been repatriated to Nigeria and qualified as Federal Government’s assets.
He also described the criticisms as needless media hype, which he insisted was misplaced, advising Nigerians to focus on the utilisation of the funds for public good.
The statement reads: “The office (of the AGF) maintained that the choice of words was deliberate.
“It is to be noted that by way of antecedence that Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN has been consistently describing the recovered funds as ‘Abacha loot’ at several fora during the process of recovery of the looted funds, particularly before the eventual repatriation of the funds.
“The point needs to be made that when the seal of legitimacy was appended to the funds by way of repatriation, it became an asset in favour of the Federal Government as a beneficial owner of same.
“Beyond the issues of verbal dexterity and vocal acrobatics, Nigerians should focus more on effective utilisation of the recovered looted funds in accordance with the content of the signed tripartite agreement in the interest of the Nigerian public.
“It may interest the general public to note that there is a unit called Assets Recovery and Management Unit at the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.
“The use of the word ‘assets’ in relation to the post-recovery of looted assets is to qualify same as Federal Government assets.”